Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Defending Champion Novak Djokovic Makes his 2021 Rome Debut - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Defending Champion Novak Djokovic Makes his 2021 Rome Debut

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Novak Djokovic practicing on Monday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

The world No.1 is a five-time champion in Rome, and has also reached the final on five other occasions.  In each of the last 14 years, Djokovic has not failed to reach at least the quarterfinals of this event.  On Tuesday, he plays his opening round match against 23-year-old American Taylor Fritz, who pushed an injured Novak to five sets at this year’s Australian Open.

 

Last week in Madrid, World No.2 Daniil Medvedev just earned his first clay court win since April of 2019, as he continues to figure out how to thrive on clay.  In his opening match, Daniil takes on fellow countryman and friend Aslan Karatsev, who upset Djokovic a few weeks ago in Belgrade.  Karatsev lost the Belgrade final to Matteo Berrettini, who this past Sunday also played in the final of Madrid.  Less than 48 hours later, the Italian No.1 will be back on court in his home country against Nikoloz Basilashvili, a two-time ATP champion this year.

Women’s action on Tuesday features four Major singles champions.  Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Ostapenko, and Sloane Stephens will all face considerable competition.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Taylor Fritz – Third on Center Court

Djokovic was up two-sets-to-none during their third round match at this year’s Australian Open when he suffered an abdominal injury.  Fritz took advantage, winning the next two sets.  But with the match on the line in the fifth, Taylor blinked, enabling an emotional Djokovic to fight back and achieve what he called “one of the most special wins in my life.”  In the third and fourth sets, Fritz struck a total of 12 aces and won 90% of first serve points.  However, that dropped to only three aces in the fifth, with just 56% of first serve points won. 

Their other two matches both took place on clay in 2019, and both were easily claimed by Djokovic.  Fritz earned a nice win on Monday over Dan Evans, but prior to that was on a three-match losing streak on clay.  And Taylor is just 13-14 on this surface since the start of 2019.  This season, Djokovic is only 3-2 on clay, so he’ll be eager to accumulate wins this week, in his last event before Roland Garros.  If Fritz couldn’t put away a hampered Djokovic on a hard court, which is Taylor’s preferred surface, I don’t like his chances of doing so on clay.

Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. Aslan Karatsev – Not before 7:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

They have never met at tour-level, but they have played twice before as professionals, and both matches went to Karatsev.  The first occasion came in the qualifying of Moscow in 2014, and the second at a 2016 Challenger event in Kazan, which is also in Russia.  Medvedev’s career achievements certainly outweigh those of Karatsev, as Daniil is a three-time Masters champion, the 2020 ATP Finals champion, and a two-time Major finalist.  But on clay, Medvedev is 11-19 lifetime at tour-level, and prior to last week was on a six-match losing streak. 

By contrast, Karatsev has only appeared in the main draw of one Slam, though he did reach the semifinals in his Major debut this past February.  And between Challenger-level and tour-level events, he’s reached four clay court finals since last August.  Just last week in Madrid, he came back from a-set-and-a-break down against Diego Schwartzman, which is no easy task.  So on this surface, Karatsev very well might be the favorite, though defeating your country’s No.1 player is often a tricky proposition.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Garbine Muguruza (12) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Muguruza is a three-time semifinalist in Rome, but has never advanced farther.  Last week in Madrid, Pavlyuchenkova reached her first WTA 1000 semifinal since 2010.  Muguruza has taken six of their seven meetings.  Pavlyuchenkova’s only win is also their only clay encounter, though Muguruza retired after the first set of that match.

Angelique Kerber vs. Alize Cornet (Q) – Kerber is just 8-8 in her career at this event.  Cornet was a finalist in her Rome debut back in 2008, but has never advanced beyond the second round since that time.  Kerber is 3-2 against Cornet, and 2-0 on clay, but their last two meetings went to the Frenchwoman.

Johanna Konta (16) vs. Jelena Ostapenko – The British No.1 was a finalist here in 2019, and has never lost before the third round.  Ostapenko was a semifinalist here in 2018, but otherwise is just 1-4 in Rome.  Konta leads their rivalry 3-2, but when they met here three years ago, Ostapenko prevailed 6-4 in the third.

Madison Keys vs. Sloane Stephens (LL) – The 2017 US Open champ is now ranked 65th in the world, and lost in qualifying this past weekend, before Karolina’s Muchova’s withdrawal gave Stephens a spot in the draw.  Keys was the runner-up in that US Open final, but is just 2-5 this season.  Sloane is 4-1 against Madison, with her four victories all decided in straight sets.

Matteo Berrettini (9) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili – Berrettini is 16-4 this season, but just 5-4 in his career at his hometown’s event.  Basilashvili was 0-9 after the tour restart in 2020, but bounced back to win titles in both Doha and Munich in 2021.  Berrettini leads their head-to-head 2-1, though Basilashvili claimed their only match on clay.

Diego Schwartzman (8) vs. Felix Auger-Alisassime – Schwartzman achieved his first Masters 1000 final at this event last September.  The 20-year-old Canadian was 0-2  in Rome before outlasting Filip Krajinovic on Sunday in a near-three-hour affair.  Last fall in Cologne, Diego defeated Felix in three sets.

Pablo Carreno Busta (11) vs. Kei Nishikori – Carreno Busta won the clay event in Marbella last month.  Nishikori reached the semis in Rome five years ago, but hasn’t gotten to the semis of any event in over two years.  Their only two previous clashes both occurred at the Australian Open, with Kei’s five-set, five-hour win in 2019 being most memorable.  Pablo avenged that loss at this year’s event.

Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Craig Tiley Confident Of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Appearance Despite Vaccination Uncertainty

Novak Djokovic will not want to miss the chance of winning a 21st grand slam at the Australian Open, says Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.

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Novak Djokovic (@116sen - Twitter)

Head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, believes Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open despite uncertainty over Djokovic’s vaccination uncertainty.

 

It was last week where Tiley confirmed that all players must be vaccinated in order to compete in next year’s Australian Open.

Most of the tour is vaccinated however it’s still unclear as to whether world number one Novak Djokovic is double vaccinated.

On one hand the world number one attended an event in New York which required vaccination but on the other hand Djokovic has raised doubts over his concern about revealing medical records in the public domain.

However speaking to radio station SEN on Thursday Tiley seems confident that Djokovic will play in January, “Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I’m sure he wants to get to 10,” the Australian was quoted as saying by The Mirror.

“He’s on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer. One of them is going to surpass the other and I don’t think Novak would want to leave that feat to someone else.

“And so it should be, because there shouldn’t be any preferential treatment coming into the state compared to what the regular community is going through.”

Should Djokovic play he would be going for a record 10th Australian Open crown and a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.

That would put him ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on grand slam numbers.

Speaking on vaccination topics Tiley also gave positive figures on the amount of tennis players fully vaccinated and is aiming for a bigger number come the end of December, “Today more than 85% are [vaccinated],” Tiley said.

“And we take a lot of credit for that because we put a vaccination requirement on it. We think by the time we get to January it will be between 90-95% vaccinated because if you’re not, you cannot play.”

The Australian Open will be the first grand slam of the year and will take place on the 17th of January.

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The 10 Highest-Earning ATP Players of 2021

37 men on the ATP Tour have earned more than $1M in prize money this year but who has made it into the top 10?

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If the 10 highest paid players on the ATP Tour put their 2021 earnings together it would exceed more than $40M and that doesn’t take into account what they have made away from the court via endorsements or other business activities.

 

A total of 37 men has crossed the $1M mark in prize money winnings this year which is nine more than the women’s WTA Tour who operate their own financial structure. Out of that group only one man has managed to make more money in doubles than singles to reach the milestone. That was France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert who made $619,550 against $449,421.

11 men surpassed the $2M mark with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10 by $89,907. So who has made the most this year and how have they done it?

UbiTennis looks at the on-court earnings of the world’s best players based on data from the ATP. The figures are in US$ and don’t take into account other factors such as endorsements.

10) Jannik Sinner

Total earnings: $2,233,199
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,159,534 DOUBLES $73,665
ATP Matches won: 46
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 10

Italy’s Jannik Sinner is the youngest player on the list at the age of 20. His earnings this season equates to almost two thirds of what he has earned during his entire professional career ($3,623,450). In 2021 the rising star won three ATP 250 titles and one 500 event in Washington. He also reached his first-ever Masters 1000 final in Miami which he lost to Hurkacz. On the other hand, he has experienced mixed results in the Grand Slams with two first round losses and two fourth round runs.

Sinner is the youngest player to finish a season inside the world’s top 10 since Juan Martin del Potro back in 2008.

9) Hubert Hurkacz

Total earnings: $2,313,289
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,173,247 DOUBLES – $140,042
ATP Matches won: 36
ATP titles won: 3
Year-end ranking: 9

Poland’s Hurkacz has achieved a series of firsts in his career this year. Prior to 2021, the 24-year-old had only ever won one ATP 250 title and never reached the second week of a major tournament. This changed in April when he stunned the field to win the Miami Masters whilst seeded 26th in the draw. Scoring back-to-back wins over top 10 players for the first time. A couple months later Hurkacz became the first male player from his country to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since 2013. He also won hard court titles in Delray Beach and Metz.

Hurkacz is the first Polish man in ATP rankings history to finish a season inside the top 10.

8) Casper Ruud

Total earnings: $2,314,629
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,230,592 DOUBLES – $84,037
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 8

Norway’s own king of clay Casper Ruud has blossomed on the Tour this season. During the summer he became the first player since Andy Murray in 2011 to win three ATP titles within as many weeks. The trio of titles during July came a couple months after he won another clay-court event in Geneva, Switzerland.

Clearly Ruud is at his most comfortable on the dirt but he has also produced some strong results on the hard courts. In February he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open which is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. More recently, he won his first ATP title on the surface at the San Diego Open. Another sign of Ruud’s consistency this season is the fact he has reached the quarter-finals or better in five out of six Masters 1000 tournaments he has played in this year.

He is the first Norwegian to finish in the year-end top 10 on the ATP Tour.

7) Cameron Norrie

Total earnings: $2,623,881
Prize money breakdown
: SINGLES – $2,518,782 DOUBLES – $105,099
ATP Matches won: 50
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 12

British talent Norrie started the year ranked outside the top 70 but has surged up the rankings since then. He has featured in the final of no fewer than six tournaments this year across three different surfaces. It was in the Mexican city of Los Cabos where he won his maiden trophy. However, that achievement was later surpassed by his unexpected run to the title in Indian Wells which is one of the biggest tournaments outside of the majors.

Norrie has recorded a career-best 50 wins this season and has recorded two wins over top 10 players – Dominic Thiem in Nice and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.

6) Matteo Berrettini

Total earnings: $3,231,908
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,201,126 DOUBLES – $30,782
ATP Matches won: 41
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 7

Berrettini’s season came to a heartbreaking conclusion after he was forced to pull out of the ATP Finals in his home country due to injury. However, prior to that the Italian can take comfort in what has been another breakthrough season for him. It was on the Grass where Berrettini achieved his biggest success by winning the Queen’s title before going on to reach his first major final at Wimbledon.

Known for his thunderous forehand, the 25-year-old also achieved new milestones on the clay by reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid. A couple weeks after Madrid, he won the Belgrade Open. Overall, he reached the quarter-final or better in three out of the four Grand Slam events.

Berrettini is the first Italian man in history to finish a season inside the top 10 on three separate occasions.

5) Andrey Rublev

Total earnings: $3,331,378
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,131,467 DOUBLES – $199,911
ATP Matches won: 49
ATP titles won: 1
Year-end ranking: 5

Rublev is the only player on the list to not win multiple titles this season. His sole triumph took place back in March when he won the Rotterdam Open. Although since then he has also reached the final of two Masters 1000 events as well as a 500 tournament in Halle. In the majors he achieved a win-loss record of 9-4 which his best result being a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Among the 10 highest earners this year, Rublev has won the most when it comes to playing doubles ($199,911). Alongside compatriot Aslan Karatsev they won the Qatar Open and reached the final in Indian Wells. Rublev also won gold in the mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Tokyo Olympics but prize money isn’t awarded at that event.

4) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Total earnings: $3,579,155
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,503,608 DOUBLES – $75,547
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 4

Prior to being forced to pull out of his last tournament of the year due an elbow injury, Tsitsipas has enjoyed a mainly successful season on the Tour. The Greek has reached the semi-final stage or better in nine tournaments he has played in, including both the Australian Open and French Open. It was at Roland Garros where he played in first major final and led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five.

Overall, Tsitsipas has reached five ATP finals, winning titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Lyon Open. However, all of his final appearances took place during the first half of 2021 and he hasn’t defeated a top 10 player during the second half.

Nevertheless, he closes out 2021 with a year-end best ranking of fourth.

3) Alexander Zverev

Total earnings: $6,420,344
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $6,361,173 DOUBLES – $59,171
ATP Matches won: 59
ATP titles won: 6
Year-end ranking: 3

Zverev tops the 2021 leaderboard when it comes to most matches won (59) and most titles (six). However, he still hasn’t been able to rise to the top of the highest-earning players. The German saw a surge in his prize money last week where he won the ATP Finals which earned him an impressive $2,143,000.

This season Zverev has triumphed at two ATP 500 events, two Masters tournaments, won a gold medal at the Olympics and claimed the ATP Finals trophy. These achievements enabled him to become the first German player since Boris Becker back in 1994 to finish a season inside the world’s top three.

Against top 10 opposition, the 24-year-old had a winning record of 12-8.

2) Daniil Medvedev

Total earnings: $7,481,271
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES -$7,466,284 DOUBLES -$14,987
ATP Matches won: 58
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 2

More than a third of Medvedev’s earnings this year is from just one tournament. His triumph over Novak Djokovic at the US Open earned the Russian a $2.5M payout. To put that into perspective, only six other ATP players have managed to earn more than this amount throughout the entire season.

Medvedev also won two 250 titles, as well as the Canadian Open. He finished runner-up at the Australian Open, Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Against top 10 opposition, he won 10 out of 15 matches played.

As a result of his success, Medvedev is the first Russian man since 2000 to finish a season ranked inside the world’s top two.

1) Novak Djokovic

Total earnings: $9,100,547
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $9,069,225 DOUBLES – $31,322
ATP Matches won: 51
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 1

Djokovic has played in 12 just tournaments this season but it is his success at the majors which has elevated him to the honour of the highest-earning player in men’s tennis this year. By winning three out of the four Grand Slams he made roughly $6M alone. On top of that, Djokovic also won the second Belgrade Open and the Paris Masters.

The world No.1’s surge this year further cements his position as the highest-earning tennis player in history when it comes to prize money. His tally now stands at $154,756,726 which is over $24M more than his nearest rival (Roger Federer has made $130.5M).

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Peng Shuai Tells International Olympic Committee She Is ‘Safe And Well’

The tennis star has spoken with an international organisation for the first time since making allegations of sexual assault but concerns about her welfare remain.

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© IOC/Greg Martin

Former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai has said she ‘would like her privacy respected’ during a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.

 

There are mounting concerns over the welfare of the tennis star after she made allegations that she was sexually assaulted by the former vice-premier of China in a social media post published on November 2nd. The post was shortly removed and the whereabouts of Shuai has been unclear. In recent days Chinese state media has posted a series of videos and photos of Shuai but there are questions over its authenticity with some fearing she is being held under control by authorities.

IOC President Thomas Bach is the first top official to have direct communication with Shuai since her allegations emerged. In a statement issued, Bach said he attended a 30-minute video call with the two-time Grand Slam champion, as well as the Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ in Beijing.

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated,” Terho commented on the situation.

Included in the IOC statement is a photo of Shuai seen smiling towards the camera. In the background, she is surrounded by teddy bears, which is similar to photos that was published by state media earlier in the week. Bach said he even invited Shuai to attend dinner with him when he visits the country in January ahead of the 2022 winter Olympics which she has accepted.

Whilst the news of Shuai’s current situation is an encouraging sign, concerns remain. In no part of the IOC press release did they mention Shuai’s allegations of sexual assault. The governing body has previously been accused of not addressing the issue compared to the WTA who have threatened to stop doing business with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

Kerry Allen, who is a Chinese Media Analyst for the BBC, has said there continues to be restrictions placed on Shuai’s Weibo account which was used to publish the statement 19 days ago. It is understood that users are still not able to comment or share any of her posts. Furthermore, Allen said that on Weibo there hasn’t been a single social media post mentioning Shuai’s name since September 10th.

As for the WTA, they are demanding greater clarity concerning Shuai and if she is allowed to act freely. Steve Simon, who is the WTA’s CEO, said he was unconvinced by a recent video of Shuai posted by a Chinese journalist who works for the state-controlled media.

“While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,” Simon said in a statement.
“This video alone is insufficient. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”

The WTA is yet to comment on Shuai’s video meeting with the IOC.

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